Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pete Molinari: More American Than Billy Childish's Wife.

Pete Molinari's a folk singer from the Bob Dylan Vocal School, nasal and high pitch intact, but he writes a damn good song and well-epitomizes the traditions of American folk and country – even as a Brit. Raised in Chatham, Kent as part of a Maltese/Italian/Egyptian family, Molinari eventually met Chatham punk/folk god Billy Childish, who recorded Molinari's debut LP, Walking Off the Map, in his kitchen (the record saw a 2006 release on Damaged Goods). Months prior to the release of Molinari's second album, due this fall, England's Big Bertha Records made Molinari's double-A-side its first release (both tracks are too good for either to be of B-quality, thank you).

Available in the form of downloads or a limited-edition seven-inch, first track “Virtual Landslide” is a massively Dylan-esque, traditional solo folk song with a spotlight on Molinari's faux-American accent. Alternate A-side “There She Still Remains,” meanwhile, is a retro country ballad in the vein of Patsy Cline, slide guitar and words of heartbreak intact. A damn shame that this is the stuff limited releases are made of.

Purchase "Virtual Landslide/There She Still Remains"

Visit Pete Molinari's website, where you can find a six-song sampler (what, you thought I'd upload a single for the taking?? Cheap bastards, you are!)

Pete's My Space page, with (mostly English) tour dates and lots of plaid.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

May there one day be universal health care.

The sad thing about the independent music scene is that the independent bands are the ones without oodles of money to toss around, so those are typically the folks with no health insurance who end up in a panic when they receive health scares. Beth Ditto's gall bladder problems, anyone? But because they're the ones with a close community of fans, they're also usually the musicians who have people rallying around them, willing to help with anything necessary. That said, there are a couple of causes that could use some monetary donations this month:

First, John Stabb (formerly of punk band Government Issue) was reportedly attacked without reason and had to be reconstructed with what sounds to be gobs and gobs of metal under the face (more on this via The Big Takeover). If you would like to assist him with medical expenses, you can find out more about his condition and donate money here.

Next, Karl Alvarez (of All and the Descendents) had a small heart attack earlier this month, and there's a benefit page for him on My Space, which links to a PayPal account - all money donated save for pesky but minor PayPal fees will go to Karl's medical bills. The benefit page also links to John Stabb's benefit page, so visit both sites while you're at it.

Bad summer for aging punks? Indeed - if you haven't heard about Ruts guitarist Paul Fox and his inoperable lung cancer, sad news lies here, and info about past benefit concerts for Fox and cancer research can be found here.

The Coathangers (want you to nestle in their boobies)

Here's an all-female band from Atlanta doing the Ramone thing with their last names, Minnie Coathanger and so forth. Only a Ramone can't be used in an illegal abortion (it's neither flexible nor an object). And you can't hang a coat from a Ramone (mostly because they're all dead and horizontally positioned).

This debut full-length isn't going to be a “greatest” anything, nor will it likely be remembered ten – hell, even two – years from now. Much like the cheeky, girly and punkish groups that have come slightly before, like the Peppermints, Gravy Train!!!! or even Bratmobile, this is a band carrying such irony and sassy novelty appeal that ironic sass is the only trait for which they can be taken seriously. They're shitty singers, but they know this. Fifteen years ago there were riot grrl bands fronted by women with faux-Valley girl accents to (ironically) emphasize femininity, and the Coathangers are a complete return to that approach, only we're past the political correctness craze of the 1990s, so the Coathangers can get away with crass humor that probably wouldn't have flown at one point. “Shut the Fuck Up” and “Nestle in My Boobies,” they say? Righty-o, then!

The girls note the use of “kiddie” instrument versions like xylophone and accordion over their handclap-laden (mostly) post-punk, and since the band itself exists purely for a temporary source of fun, it's safe to say that they've actually got some hilarious gems within their lyrics. Obvious first choice being:

Leave my shit alone!
Don't touch my shit!
It's my shit!
(Melody kicks in. It's comprised of chaotic telephone rings.)
I told you/don't touch my papers/'cause they're mine!
You say you like my boyfriend/you think he's really hot/
you look at him like that again/I'll punch you in the twat!
Don't touch my shit!

If only Allison Wolfe had followed “gimme back my Cheap Trick record” with “I'll punch you in the twat,” right? They also take a modern stab at social commentary in “Buckhead Betty,” a sort of sarcastic ode to rich housewives, and have a surprisingly decent rock song in “The Missing Letter,” where you'll find some of that kiddie accordion played by BeBe Coathanger. The Coathangers' faux-Valley girl accents make their half-hour record slightly unbearable if swallowed whole, but in limited doses, this is some of the funniest shit that's come out this year. The ideal girls for a house party, if not for sharing tit jokes.

The Coathangers - Don't Touch My Shit!
The Coathangers - The Missing Letter
Stream The Coathangers in its entirety!
Purchase The Coathangers (released September 4)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Day Two of Fuck Yeah! Fest IV (Echo Park, CA)

Pardon the abudance of Pissed Jeans and Langhorne Slim photos, but after an exhausting Saturday night at the Fuck Yeah! Fest, Sunday by contrast offered slim pickings for those not into the traditional indie rock crowd, and the most attention-holding acts were those who packed testosterone and bounce into their sets. Pissed Jeans in particular wound up carrying the surprise "wow" factor of the second night, what with front man Matt Korvette attempting to pull off the Iggy Pop approach to performance (see above photo). He actually managed it quite well, though his abs lacked Iggy's creepy muscle definition and his hand lacked a piece of cut glass.

Korvette could fade from a grimace to a gaze in an instant, and could just as easily adjust from an ironically dainty hop to a doubled-over strain with nary a cue. He lent views of his bent ass to those on the sides of the Echo's stage and gradually lost his shirt, as well as pieces of his boxers, which transformed into a torn caveman-style shoulder strap as he wedgied his way through them. And once the performance had nearly completed, he poured some Arrowhead into his belly button, because cleanliness is next to godliness, and God always has a clean belly button. By the way, go see Pissed Jeans if they arrive at a city near you. Meaning Philadelphia, at the moment.

Other members of Pissed Jeans? It's true!

Sunday seemed a bit more inconsistent than Saturday, what without a major headliner of the night (say what you will about hype, but Deerhunter is no punk reunion or conclusion, as we'd gotten at the end of Saturday). The Nice Boys played a set at the Jensen Rec Center early in the evening, but save for the four or five people dancing up front, the crowd wasn't feeling it and the presence of daylight may have been to blame. The large space by the front of the stage made photographers look horribly out of place, as well. Nonetheless, the group was energetic and on, despite their collective lack of blazers this time around, though they did boast a pair of snazzy patterned pants and a leather jacket among them. As far as later sets go, xBxRx did a fine job of leading up to Pissed Jeans like a group of perky purple rabbits. The exception being their bassist, who played outsider in a strobe light on a strap and a furry white hat (and, I'm sure, other things requiring the use of a short letter "a"). Jay Reatard was fun and poppy, though more reminiscent of a '90s pop punk band than the much quirkier and worthwhile recordings he's got. Local band Moonrats sweetly thanked an anonymous donor for cupcakes but didn't stick out much in their brand of formulaic indie rock. They looked rather young, though, so they've likely got time to develop. And like most of the night's other acts, they were nice.

Luckily, Langhorne Slim came in to save the day and give the second night a bit of a bang; performing as a now-standard trio with bassist Paul Defiglia and drummer Malachi DeLorenzo (Langhorne has done solo sets in the past), the band saved us from further developing hipster apathy with their brand of Appalachian-style folk rock, and made the most of each minute that they so carefully tracked out loud. The interesting thing about Langhorne, and perhaps my favorite tidbit about him, is that while he may not actually be from the boonies, he really seems to write lyrics to live by and encourages others to live them alongside him. After last night's sung suggestion to ditch the coat and hat and pursue a happy life until the day we grow very, very, very old, he invited the audience to come up and dance onstage for a final celebration with his band. And when the abundance of people somehow cut off energy to his once-plugged-in guitar, someone onstage kneeled over to plug it in again, after which point Langhorne kissed his head and the guy kissed him back. Fuck yeah, it was a night of love!

Pissed Jeans - A Bad Wind
Buy Hope for Men

On a side note, the Nice Boys' "Very Mary" 7-inch was not available for purchase at the Fest, but said brand new single is currently on their My Space page for listening purposes. Hurrah!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Day One of Fuck Yeah! Fest IV (Echo Park, CA)

Most music nerds have some sort of rock fantasy lurking within them, however absurd said fantasies may be, and one of my small desires of the last couple years has been for east coast punk band the Explosion to cover the Hives. On record, the Explosion's slightly poppy in its punk style and can't really match the intensity of its (consistently brilliant) live show, but front man Matt Hock has a faux-cocky swagger that could nearly rival that of Howlin' Pelle, and the band as a whole is fueled by enough testosterone, speed and humor that it could certainly pull off such a feat.
But alas, this will remain a long term pipe dream, as the Explosion is coming to an end after approximately nine years together. The group put on its final west coast performance at the tail end of Saturday's Fuck Yeah! Fest date, somehow managing to top a reunion performance by the Fuse! and revealing that, yes, people do crowd surf in Echo Park. Hock reached over the barrier up front to share his mic and huggable arms with the crowd's front row, and skinny jeans-clad (guitarist) Chris Gonzalez shared himself with many a camera.

It seemed that only the most loyal fans had stayed for the end of the seven-hour concert to see the Explosion, given the number of people who knew every word to every song, not to mention that while most bands get the strongest response from their album's singles, songs like “Here I Am” received attention equal to the rest of the band's material. And so it was, the Explosion, ending on quite the high note, as well as prior to the release of an upcoming and final album. Release date thus far unknown.

Downey-based punk trio the Fuse! performed a one-time reunion set at the Echoplex just before the Boston band to take a bow of its own; the audience was a mish-mash of old fans and unfamiliar faces, and the Fuse! front man fed it a helping of anger directed at apathetic America. Were they not such a prime pairing for the night's headliner, the Fuse! may as well have headlined its own set in a separate venue, and to sum up dialogue throughout, the band's motto may as well have been, “This is the fuckin' USA?”

Other highlights of the night's earlier half included Entrance, whose female bass player churned out lines battling the smoothness and simplicity of Dave Alexander's work in the late '60s, and the rather math rock-ish Upsilon Acrux, whose incredibly young-looking drummer came down hard and whose Moog master...erm...rocked his Moog. Guitars were precisely tapped, and additionally young-looking new bassist Josh Quon appeared slightly nervous in the face.

Workaholic Greg Ashley stopped into the Rec Center to play a solo acoustic set on his classical guitar, and spent his time nervously hunched over when not nervously mumbling his dedications and song titles. But he always sits and hunches, even when performing with the Gris Gris, so such was to be expected; his set was pleasant and audience intimate, and his fingers revealed (for we ignorant non-musicians) how a note is bent. His set was mostly comprised of solo material, beginning with Painted Garden's album opener “Song from Limestone County,” including the also-recent “Sailing with Bobby,” and ending on “Apple Pie and Genocide” from 2003's Medicine Fuck Dream, during which his “da da dee/da da dumb” choruses were more aggressively sung than usual. Only one Gris Gris track was included, "Me Queda Um Bejou" off the self-titled Gris Gris album from 2004.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bea Arthur and Tom Brosseau!

Two weeks ago, the World of Wonder's storefront gallery in L.A. (6650 Hollywood Blvd.) hosted the second installment of its Art in August program, featuring Golden Gals Gone Wild, an exhibit that is what it sounds, curated by Lenora Claire. I've nothing more to say on this, other than...check out the Mona Lisa smile on that Bea Arthur!

In really fucking exciting news, I'd like to say a few words about Tom Brosseau, the talented folk singer who hails from North Dakota and occasionally resides on Fat Cat Records. First off, he has another album coming out this October, so before it gets released, you should check out his record from this past January, Grand Forks, which was (in my opinion) his best yet and vastly underpublicized. The next thing: from 2004 to 2006, I'd been working as a music director at my college radio station up in Tacoma, Washington, and on occasion got to record in-studios with artists. One day in 2005, Tom Brosseau showed up and I recorded a set of four or five songs he performed, most of which had yet to be released. Figuring our station was the only place where those songs would be played, I didn't give much thought to those recordings until visiting Fat Cat's website today and discovering that one of those recordings made it onto their In Sound sampler of the month. The recording he chose to include, in fact, was a version of "Amory" (on the upcoming Cavalier) that he dedicated to me! And as luck would have it, he kept the dedication in the recording that made it to the sampler. Well, fuck. I dunno what to say at this point, except that you should buy his upcoming record when it comes out October 22/23, as well as Grand Forks. Also, go see him on tour, and download this sampler since it's only up for a limited time.

And yes, for the record, he is quite possibly the nicest person who ever held a guitar.

Tom Brosseau - Amory (live at KUPS 2005)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Handsome 'til the end.

Happy Birthday, Joe!

Today you'd be old enough to get a discount at IHOP.

Fast Piece of Furniture - Adventures in Contentment

Adventures in Contentment was released this past May on Dischord and Adult Swim, the labels co-founded and founded, respectively, by Minor Threat's Jeff Nelson, who plays drums here. But this is not material consistent with Minor Threat's early hardcore scene, nor with Dischord's overall rough and raw output. A four-piece based in Ohio and lead by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Tony Lowe, Fast Piece of Furniture seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it deal, and unless you collect bargain pop records from the 1970s, it's bound to remain at a distance from the bulk of your music collection.

Tony Lowe's got the creak of a 55-year old, and when joining the opening riff and lazy mood of introductory track “Berlin” sends the listener straight into a two-star movie from 1978 – specifically, the opening scene, where title credits roll perpendicular to a freeway full of station wagons. The tone is set here for an album that should be embedded in vinyl, listened to on Sunday mornings between doses of Carole King and Nick Lowe; for the most part, this remains the case with the rest of Adventures in Contentment, ideal for a car ride in one of those station wagons. There's actually a photograph of a green station wagon within the album's liner notes, buried between pictures of the band recording at what appears to be Jeff Nelson's beautiful Victorian in Toledo.

There are pieces here and there that bring the record up to date in an un-hip way, intentional but not the least bit ironic, as though it were the fresh comeback album of a punk or rock star from thirty years ago who couldn't recapture the urgency of his oldest work. Such bits being Erika Kuester's spacey keyboard steps on “Can I Believe in You?” or Nelson's post-punk drumming, which takes over the choruses of “Ready When You Are” where the misplaced electric guitar strums of its verses leave off. This doesn't sound like much of a sell on the whole, does it? In text, and maybe even on first listen, Adventures in Contentment is a bizarre find that doesn't really have a current place – anywhere.

But it does have its immediate upsides; “The Wolves” and “Pictures of You and Me” provide highlights that pull Fast Piece of Furniture out of a time warp and into a definite present, not to mention Lowe's oaky wail into a soft, vibrating sing-song voice that nicely ties together pairings of acoustic strums and softly beaten snares. And ballad “Wears Me Down” twinkles thanks to the presence of glockenspiel and toy keyboard, acting as the subtle intermission to an album that most would consider an awkward blend of pop. Production on the album is quite nice and finds no instrument or voice fighting for more power than owed, and though Adventures in Contentment on the whole would seem the odd album out right now, it becomes an addictive record once given the chance to sink in after a few listens.

Fast Piece of Furniture – Miles From Nowhere
Fast Piece of Furniture – Picture of You and Me
Fast Piece of Furniture – The Wolves

Purchase Adventures in Contentment.

Monday, August 20, 2007

...waiting for Dick Clark to kick off...

In slightly happier news, the Twilight Sad gets to go on a big tour, and even open for those Smashing Pumpkins kids (that's happy news, right?). In more slightly sad news, they're skipping over most of the US.

But wait! In slightly happier news, Leona Helmsley is now in Heaven, picking fights with all the little people. I hope she got there safely in her 100-seat jet.

And in slightly happier news that does not involve a death or getting chummy with Billy Corgan, here are a couple of music recommendations resulting from a dig around My Space on a hunt for Irish bands. The first is the Exhibition, whose music actually sounds a bit cluttered and maddening until you get used to it and suddenly can't stop shoving it in your ears. Think "Breakfast Time" by Orange Juice - strangely addicting, no? The second is Evil Harrisons, a rather mature and quirky pop group that reminds me quite a bit of Fast Piece of Furniture (review coming soon) in its retro-yet-adult quality.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Something exciting, exciting to see! Something exciting, exciting for free!

A bit too much love.

I recently sent away for Issues 1-8 of The Big Takeover, and much to my delight, the eight issues had been a mere five bucks because The Big Takeover was once – no, not a thick, colorful magazine – a 'zine made from typewriter, pen and photocopier, printed on plain paper. The debut issue, in fact, was not even a full 'zine but a single-page newsletter about what the Stimulators were up to in 1980. Yes, Big Takeover editor Jack Rabid has transformed from young, underfunded music dork with cross-outs in his writing to middle-aged, decently-funded music dork with clean typos in place of cross-outs. But that's why he's my recent hero, and I'm thankful to know that he's consistently used exclamation points and made additional editor's notes regardless of his publication's phase.

In any case, Rabid also packaged my back issues with a CD-R of music, partially to promote The Big Takeover's recent record label (Pink Frost/Big Takeover Records), and partially to fill in leftover space on the CD. Included was a hearty selection of music from his own bands past and present (Even Worse, Springhouse, and Last Burning Embers, the latter of whom have a current release on the Pink Frost label); there were also inclusions from Pink Frost artist Doug Gillard (former Guided by Voices) and Libertines U.S., a 1980s Cincinnati band initially called the Libertines who were given a healthy reunion interview in Issue 60 of The Big Takeover.

Yes, some of this (ahem, Springhouse) is a bit dated, and yes, releasing your own music on your magazine's label is a bit indulgent. But '90s music was doomed to be dated, and...hell, it's your label and your magazine. Here's to sharing.

Even Worse – Contaminated Waste
Even Worse – We Suck
Springhouse – Enslave Me
Last Burning Embers – Distress Call
Doug Gillard – Symbols, Signs
Libertines U.S. - Bad Memories Burn

Find any of the above at the Pink Frost/Big Takeover website.

And support The Big Takeover! It's one of the few great print music magazines in the US!

Aaron Schroeder, a dashing young man in flashy white glasses.

Here's a jolly bit of pop sent by Aaron Schroeder, singer-songwriter and early-20-something residing in Washington state. Schroeder comes off as a bona fide nice guy and offers, via his website, to work something out for fans who'd like his album but can't pay $7.99. If everyone did business this way, certainly the music industry would earn more support. Alas.

In any case, Schroeder's follow-up to last year's suitably-titled Southern Heart in Western Skin is Black and Gold. Opener “What We Don't Know” has such an exaggerated twinkle to it, emanates such glee, that it almost comes off as a parody of '60s vocal pop (compare to the recent Spoon record, for example, which adversely mimics '60s pop with zero irony). Some of this merry mood might be due to Schroeder's voice, strong and proud, words well-enunciated – think Ben Folds. For the most part, though, the record strays from this ambiguously retro irony in tone, instead picking up as a more confident, jolly, pub-style country-pop sequel to Southern Heart in Western Skin, complete with hand claps and broken glass. Like his 2006 album, Black and Gold rides too heavily on neither country nor twee pop, making the musician come off as an indie kid experimenting in country, though he's apt to please more of that “indie” crowd. Interestingly enough, that's where his influences lie, so his style sounds like an exciting moment of dabbling in “what would happen if...?”

Also of note are Schroeder's guests, including Justin Meldal-Johnson of Beck's backing band (not wildly prominent as the bassist on “What We Don't Know”) and Kind of Like Spitting's Ben Barnett (wildly prominent as a backing vocalist on ballad “Call Out to Me”). Black and Gold is a safe record, but it's quite a pleasant listen overall and will provide an appropriate background whether you're asking for a dance or shedding drunken tears.

Purchase Black and Gold via Aaron Schroeder's website.
Purchase/listen to clips of Southern Heart in Western Skin (2006)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'm a wabbit. I'll make wuuuuuuv to you.

Today's Tuesday, the second most awful day of the week. I hate Tuesday, and perhaps you do as well. As a reward for enduring the second most awful day of the week, here's a mix full of croaked goodies (ha! a blog joke!). A few are repeats of songs posted, in case you missed them when they were up.

Bingo Gazingo – I'm a Wabbitt
Brian Eno – Needles in the Camel's Eye
Dutronc – Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi
The Revillos – Jack the Ripper
Beehive and the Barracudas – Preteen Sex Fiend
The Time Flys – Reality (is a Rock Band)
Partisan – Music is the Weapon
The Mirrors – Patient Flowers
The Adverts – Great British Mistake
Thee Headcoats – We Hate the Fuckin' NME
Budget Girls – Tickle Be
King Khan and BBQ Show – Too Much in Love
Langhorne Slim – Counting Fireflies
The Stranglers – Peasant in the Big Shitty
Black Fiction – Magic Hands
Black Lips – Katrina
Thurston Moore – Wonderful Witches
Buzzcocks – Nostalgia
Candie Payne – By Tomorrow
The Saints – Orstralia
Stiff Little Fingers – Bloody Sunday
Essential Logic – Popcorn Boy
Nick Lowe – Marie Provost
Tyrannosaurus Rex – Woodland Bop
PJ Harvey – Is That All There Is?

Download mix. (Re-posted 2.14.08)

...and a pox on you!

...never mind that over the last three years there's been a reunion for every week - the Silver Apples is the most recent old group with a new tour, and they're heading out around the US for the first time since the late '90s, which saw their first reunion after a decades-long hiatus. The last time Silver Apples toured, there was a crushed van and a broken neck - may they fare better this time. They will be on the road with The Moon Upstairs.

Dates thus far:

Sep 5 2007
Emo's - Austin, TX

Sep 6 2007
TBA - Memphis, TN

Sep 7 2007
University of Kentucky - Lexington, KY

Sep 8 2007
Empty Bottle - Chicago, IL

Sep 9 2007
Magic Stick - Detroit, MI

Sep 10 2007
Rock N Roll Hotel - Washington DC

Sep 11 2007
Johnny Brenda's - Philadelphia, PA

Sep 12 2007
Knitting Factory - NYC, NY

Sep 13 2007
Silent Barn - Brooklyn, NY

Sep 14 2007
Cafe Bourbon Street - Columbus, OH

Sep 18 2007
Someday Lounge - Portland, OR

Sep 20 2007
Cafe Du Nord - San Francisco, CA

Sep 22 2007
Spaceland - Los Angeles, CA

Silver Apples - Velvet Cave
Purchase Contact

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bush's Brain is leaving the White House.

"Bush's Brain" is leaving the White House. Maybe he's ashamed of what he's become, or maybe he's off to start a fresh career, but perhaps this has something to do with it.

For any and all residents of the Los Angeles region, the Banana Slug String Band will be performing a kids' matinee at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica on August 26. I don't know much about prompting rain with the Water Cycle Boogie, but I do know that six-year old me used to play the String Band's "Dirt Made My Lunch" whenever the right occasion presented itself. Eight bucks, 11am, tickets available via this page.

And, in sad news - rounding out a string of famous deaths including Ingmar Bergman Fishman - came the death of Factory Records founder Tony Wilson on Friday. He passed at age 57 of kidney cancer. In MOJO's special on Ian Curtis earlier this year (Feb. 2007), Wilson recalled putting Joy Division on television after a "nasty, confrontational" Curtis called him a cunt for being the type who'd refrain from putting his band on TV. Apparently, Wilson was easily persuaded. The BBC story on Wilson's death was a bit sad if only for the quote they used from just prior to his death:

"I used to joke in my early 50s that I'd had such a fantastic life, I'd be happy to die," he said.

"And then suddenly, I find some other reasons for living and just like get excited again about life when it comes along. So that was slightly annoying."

Joy Division - Disorder
Joy Division - Atrocity Exhibition
Banana Slug String Band - Dirt Made My Lunch (clip)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

And now he can move out of his grandma's house.

So. According to those gossipy NME folks, Carbon/Silicon (Mick Jones of the Clash and Tony James of Generation X) will finally be releasing a real, physical studio album on October 8, called The Last Post. Now, if you've had a look at the band's discography page at any point, you'd notice that they've got loads of releases. However, read the fine print and there's all this nonsense about such and such release being "the second set of impossible to release earliest studio recordings" or "given free at the first studio gig" and thus not for sale. Or, even more entertaining, "the Third officially released Carbon/Silicon download album" (all three were allegedly free). So perhaps the title of that upcoming record is an indicator that the end is nigh, or at least the end of a download-only era for them. My guess is that Mick sat down and said, "Well, fuckall, it's about time for a paycheque." In any case, have a bit of a listen - Mick's voice has hardly changed at all.

Carbon/Silicon - T.F. Madness
Carbon/Silicon - Pier 51

And if you're interested, several more tracks can be found here.

Ramble, ramble, bitch, bitch.

For a magazine with such a significant history (said history pertaining to its complete infatuation with all things Patti Smith, apparently), the Sept. 1978 issue of Creem impressed me less than I'd anticipated. I expect that much of the fact has to do with its penchant for rock 'n roll over punk, and its willingness to review albums by the likes of Jimmy Buffett and Bonnie Tyler (honestly, Robert Christgau, if you're going to go through the trouble of giving Bonnie Tyler a “C” rating, why bother at all?). But I was entertained by Billy Altman's declaring “The Cars” a “hot” band name, and a review of the Stranglers' Black and White in which Rick Johnson suggested fans “jump on [the band] now, coz the Stranglers will be gone when all the rest of us are still left over.” This a full twelve years before Hugh Cornwell would leave the band, never mind their eventual change in direction or that they'd still go at it without him. Har har har.

Anyhow, I found two readers' letters entertaining and worthy of mention. One was a highly promotional letter from a reader in Redondo Beach: “If you like the Stones, if you like the Who, if you like the Ramones, you'll have what amounts to a religious experience when you hear the Clash! The flip side of the new single, 'Jail Guitar Doors,' even sounds like Mott the Hoople. The Clash are classic rock 'n' roll, and they're coming to the States so GET READY!”

Does anyone get that excited about international acts anymore? I suppose the tabloid format of the current NME allows those of us in the US to get a thrill out of all those colorful pictures and exclaim, “The View are on fire!” and “Jamie T is coming!” or whatever we're supposed to exclaim when we get a peek at the other side of the world. Fuck if anyone's currently as talented as the Clash (regardless of what those pesky NME readers speak of My Chemical Romance), and never mind that the internet's removed anticipation, that ever-satisfying feeling, from the equation. The point is that I can't remember the last time a band was really anticipated and lived up to the hype, nor can I think about anyone recent that'll make my “all-time favorites” list even five or ten years down the line. The Hives certainly lived up to all their hype (self- and otherwise), but they're losing momentum after three years without an album, not to mention confusing some of us by touring with Maroon 5. The Libertines may be it, but even they couldn't last more than two years and wound up more famous for Pete Doherty's reputation than the band's albums. There's a legend in there somewhere. But even with them, nothing much happened until they'd already hit and left – there were no predictions that the brilliant band would become huge here, and somehow I get the feeling that they were never as big here as they probably were in England. Has any band from the last ten years been something to fall in love with?

On a more optimistic note, the second memorable letter came from a Mink DeVille fan in Houston, Texas, who wished to direct attention to a radio deejay (deemed by the reader a “total weenie [...] surpassed in total weenie-ness only by Linda McCartney.” Bless Linda's late vegetarian heart.). Apparently the deejay in question refused and insulted her radio request for Mink DeVille, so this reader wished to inform the deejay, via Creem, that “Mink DeVille is great – and you have the mentality of whoever wrote 'Crimson and Clover'!!!”

Not only is this letter hilarious for its choice of insult – rude phrases of years past are so harmless compared to the real nastiness that tends to pop up today – but the idea of fighting over Mink DeVille is completely representative of how simultaneously awesome and cheesy that band was. Take 1977's Cabretta, for instance, where standout track “Spanish Stroll” has been said to take on a cool Lou Reed tone (I get this but liken the song more to David Bowie's “Queen Bitch,” by the way). The track itself is nice and late '70s casual in a hokey, white blazer sort of way, but the rest of the album is a weird experiment in merging those white blazers with a classic rock star mentality and roughness. Sort of strange how it all worked together or didn't. Mink DeVille would never get signed today for so many reasons. I've got nothing else to say on the matter, so I'll suggest having a look at that “Spanish Stroll” video and questioning whether “Mink DeVille” is as hot a band name as “The Cars.” Erm...The End.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

...two more quick things.

Yes, the dates on the poster were incorrectly printed.


Dizzee Rascal, the View, and Babyshambles all in one place? The gods have some disorganized paperwork on their desks.

It's somebody's birthday....

Apologies for the lack of posts this past week - I was off getting some wisdom teeth pulled (several years late, in fact) and recovering with what seemed like an endless supply of chocolate pudding and dreadful movies. Pudding gets old after about three bowls, but it turns out that oral surgery provides a prime excuse to watch Christopher Walken's Puss in Boots.

That aside, I missed out on the chance to notify you, dear public, of two important events. First, Jeff Hanson, Kill Rock Stars resident and effeminately-voiced but talented folk singer, will be at the Knitting Factory's Alterknit Lounge tonight (a 7pm show for $7). He's also doing a show later on at the Bordello and will be finishing up a tour of these western parts over the course of the next week. Tour schedule can be found here.

Second point of the day: while I was busy getting my gums cut up on Friday the 3rd, Tony Bennett celebrated his 81st birthday. Tony and I have had some exciting encounters over the last few years, and I owe him the world's cannolis for all the joy he's added to my life. Sometime in 1998, when he released his autobiography, The Good Life, he came up to Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard to do an in-store signing. I'd never given him much thought up to that point, crucial point being the moment he was visible enough from line for me to exclaim, "Dude! It's Tony Bennett!" My mom pulled 14-year old me through to get the book signed, and I flashed Tony a huge idiotic smile. Since then, I've driven into San Francisco with windows down and his ode to the city blaring. I've joined my family at the Hollywood Bowl for two performances in the last five years (see above photo, from 2005). I've stood in line at Borders in Westwood just to get ten seconds of face time with him while watching him sign that godawful Duets CD (honestly, was a duet with Bono necessary??). He's even helped me through school - a 12th grade Golden State Exam in Writing, its topic being the ideal celebrity with whom to spend a day, found me receiving High Honors for my response: a day in Vegas with my favorite Italian-American. And that copy of The Good Life Mom and I had waited in line to get signed? Scored a 95 on my eight-page analysis of it for a music survey class in college. Tony and I have made some memories, and now he is 81. That's just great.

It's highly doubtful that he'll celebrate his birthday three times, as he did last year (thanking Target, the sponsor of his birthday gala, at the Grammys, no less), but he will be at the Greek Theater in L.A. on August 16.

Tony Bennett - Sweet Lorraine
(Purchase fifty years' worth of genius)

Jeff Hanson - Let You Out
Jeff Hanson - Welcome Here
(Purchase Jeff Hanson)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Guitar riffs up th' wazoo.

It's become apparent that I spend a lot of time gushing about old or retro power-pop and punk-pop – though initially more of a traditional British punk fan (it's all that youthful spunk in the bones), I've spent a chunk of the last couple years getting into stuff like the Only Ones, Beat Beat Beat, the oft-complimented Nice Boys, the Old Haunts, Public Image, Ltd., the Undertones, and anything else that loosely fits into the not-quite-pop/not-quite-punk category. Rather than spend a new post writing my fourth indirect love letter to Terry Six, I thought I'd dig through recently found materials to present some good finds on old or retro power-pop and punk-pop. As it turns out, Portland is the place to be, and the lines separating power-pop, punk-pop, and straightahead punk are rather iffy.

In addition to the wonder that is My Space, print magazines old and new have become a major asset to discovering bands; in particular, I've got a 2002 issue of British fashion and music mag The Face, a 1980 issue of British punk 'zine Zigzag, and the most recent issue of American magazine The Big Takeover to credit with the initial listing of these names. So, in a gesture of thanks to their respective staffs, anyone who uses the internet as a print mag replacement should reconsider and pick up the occasional magazine to help keep its publication going. Trees are like meat – if it's already dead, it's there for you to use. So buy up those dead trees, 'cause they're sitting around, regardless.

The Shocks – Really fun pop/surf punk based in Berlin. A German-language band that formed in 1995 and released the album Brace...Brace... via Dirty Faces this past April. They also had a split EP with the Briefs (a similar-sounding poppy punk band from Portland, pardon the alliteration) in 2004. Believable as a '77 punk band, though their more recent, cleaned up production might make them a good bet for Bouncing Souls fans. Also, they've got a front man named Smail.
The Shocks on My Space

The Shocks - Bombe

The Parkinsons – This one was listed as a band to look out for in a 2002 issue of now-defunct The Face; the Parkinsons are a fairly fierce punk band that began in Portugal as the Tedio Boys, later relocating to the UK and rechristening themselves. According to Wrench Records, who released their Up for Sale EP, the band ended its run in 2005.
The Parkinsons on My Space

The Barracudas – Power-pop up the wazoo! Certainly the second biggest group on the list, and apparently still active. In the November 1980 issue of Zigzag, members of Gang of Four revealed a slight bit of contempt for bands like the Barracudas, who they viewed as a pop band meant to satisfy EMI execs that was quickly replacing financially unstable underdogs like Gang of Four. The commercial aspect of this band certainly is apparent, especially by contrast with the aforementioned, but it's also damn fine pop as far as pop goes.
Sample Through the Mysts of Time

High Tension Wires – They just released the record Midnight Cashier on Dirtnap Records, the Portland record label that gushes quality garage rock and pop like blood from Jesus' wrists. If you dig around My Space for garage rock that's linked to Dirtnap, you'll find that these guys, like a number of others, are actually a Texas-based group. A worthy find if you're into their label mate Beat Beat Beat, who released a record last October, or the Marked Men, who I mentioned in an old post.
High Tension Wires - Tokyo is Burning Down

Clorox Girls – Chances are, you can't recall ever seeing a negative review of the Exploding Hearts. Why? Because their sound was tight but not polished, their style seemingly authentic and without irony. Comparing the modern to the modern, this trio is as close as we'll get to finding a new version of the Exploding Hearts (as evidenced by “Flowers of Evil” in particular, included). Much of this may be in part to the fact that Exploding Hearts engineer Pat Kearns worked on their third and newest record, J'aime Les Filles, which is on (yes, Portland label) BYO Records.
Clorox Girls on My Space
Clorox Girls - Flowers of Evil

The Ugly Beats – Another lo-fi Texas band, this time on Get Hip Records, who've been supplying good garage rock for ages. They're touring Texas and a bit of the east coast this fall, in support of second album Take a Stand with the Ugly Beats.
The Ugly Beats on My Space

The Friends of Rock N Roll – A retro punk-pop group that rides along the border of '70s-style post-punk and '60s psych pop, making them the only band on this list that doesn't bleed guitar riffs. Offering more of a minimalist sound focused on rhythm, the Friends debuted an EP on March 6 via Dome City, and are also based in – you guessed it – Portland.
The Friends of Rock N Roll on My Space

Buzzcocks (Howard Devoto-era) – More for my amusement than anything else. You already know the Buzzcocks, la-di-da, la-di-da, but if you haven't heard their earliest work, either via the Spiral Scratch EP or Time's Up, check them out if only to note how severely they matured after losing original frontman Howard Devoto (who, according to Pete Shelley in a 2000 interview with The Big Takeover, has resorted to original name Howard Trafford). With Devoto's inclusion, and prior to taking on a dose of polish, the group was much more punk than they would be as of Love Bites et al., much in part to Devoto's high-pitched sneer, not unlike that of John Lydon. The sloppiest they'd ever be, and a completely different band from the Pete Shelley-fronted Buzzcocks altogether.
Buzzcocks - Orgasm Addict (featuring Howard Devoto)


The best part of low-budget magazines is the imperfection. Just as you'll find several typos in an issue of The Big Takeover, Zigzag follows the rule that if a typed page is missing a word or letter, the copy editor is to handwrite the missing word with pen and leave it so. Apparently, this was a frequent issue, and is quite amusing to run across. If you're nowhere near an issue of Zigzag and want to know about the other goods buried within, here's a sampling of interview highlights. (Also, if you're located in Los Angeles, Rockaway Records on Glendale Boulevard offers a fantastic variety of publications from the '60s to the present.)

Keith Richards, years prior to falling from a tree, to Kris Needs: “We had a fire in my house...I didn't even get me trousers on, just jumped out the window! There were all these neighbours worried about the flames catching their houses. I was standing there – 'wadya want me to do, pee on it? Forget it!”

Joey Ramone, to Tom Hibbert: “John's gonna vote for Reagan but they all suck. Carter's lame and Anderson's just for the hippies. Russia seems to be invading everywhere and you just don't wanna see Russia take over the world. That's our main concern so maybe in some ways Reagan's better 'cos he'd be better as far as defense is concerned, y'know.”

Jello Biafra, to John Tobler: “I'd much prefer Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan, simple[sic] because Carter is so stupid – I'd rather have a closet Nazi who's dumb and can't get anything done at the helm of America than somebody who can actually get things done like Ronald Reagan. That makes him far more dangerous, and [Jerry] Brown more dangerous still, because he doesn't screw up as often.”